Cardwell Map

Ennis: Usually full in the summer are both the Camper Corner (406-682-4514) in the heart of town and Ennis RV Village (406-682-1463) north of town. Both have full hookups and sites for tenters. For a country lake experience, the Lake Shore Cabins & Campground (406-682-4424, May-Nov.) on the north side of Ennis Lake has RV and tent sites, as well as a studio apartment, a four-bedroom house, and a marina; three-night minimum applies.

Virginia city: The Carriage House ($$, 406-843-5211), a studio apartment with a queen bed and kitchenette, and the Cozy Cabin ($$, 406-843-5211), a one-bedroom with full kitchen and bath, are both typically open year-round, but it’s best to check with Christine Stadler (406-580-7881) for availability in winter. The Carriage House is a more modern construction above a two-car garage; the cabin, while cozier, has contemporary upgrades while still retaining its mining-days feel. For campers, there’s Virginia City RV Park (406-843-5493) on the left just as you enter the east end of town. They have Wi-Fi, showers, a free RV dump station for guests, and they’re pet-friendly. alder: Ruby Valley Campground ($, 406-842-5677 March-Nov.), formerly a KOA site, now under new management, has pull-through RV sites, cute cabins, and many tent sites. New owner Jim Sibert was retired and not even looking for a job when he stopped in for a stay on his way back to Canada. A deal was struck, and Jim and his son have some lofty plans. It’s cleaner and prettier than it was. Six sites have been winterized and the flawed canvas cook tent that catered to hunters will be replaced by a more modern wood structure.

Silver star: About 2 miles south of town, fishing is the focus at the 75-acre Jefferson River Camp (406-684-5225), which has 14 RV sites and eight places for tenters. The camp has a half-mile of private river access and features guided fishing trips from the Four Rivers Fly Shop. There’s also a cabin and an apartment.

Cardwell: Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park (406-287-3541/, May-Oct.) has thirty-nine campsites, three basic camping cabins that sleep up to four, and one teepee. The cabins are similar to those at KOA campgrounds, so bring your own bedding. camping: The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has four primitive but free campgrounds in the Tobacco Root Mountains three in the Mill Creek drainage accessible from Sheridan on the west side and one on South Willow Creek on the east side near the head of the Potosi Trail, a popular way to access the mountains’ many glistening alpine lakes. Potosi has 15 sites and two water pumps on 80 acres. The three on the west side are Mill Creek (nine sites), Balanced Rock (two sites), and Branham Lakes (13 sites); Branham is the highest in elevation and has potable water, as does Mill Creek.

Best Eats

Three forks: The elegant Pompey’s Grill ($$/$$$, 406-285-6515, D) and the more casual downstairs Sacajawea Bar ($, 406-285-6515, L[Sat.-Sun.]/D) are both in the Sacajawea Hotel and worth any drive. Pompey’s has set the bar high for gourmet dining with the help of energetic Chef Matt, who brings a big-city flair to a small town. The dining room has more continental listings (roasted chicken, seafood, steaks, braised bison short ribs) and they are all a cut above the rest. Additional small plates are available for sampling, for those who can’t decide. Favored items on the bar menu, which also changes seasonally, showcase the best of ultimate comfort food three-cheese macaroni loaded with smoked bacon and chicken, pulled pork sandwich, bison burger, and huge green salads accompanied by house-made dressings. Wherever or whatever you eat, save room for their coconut cream pie. You won’t soon forget it.

Harrison: The Town Haul Cafe ($/$$, 406-685-3207, B/L/D, Thurs.-Sat.) not only uses local beef, they raise it. Also locally sourced are the potatoes and sometimes the salad greens as well. There’s a haul of good ol’ homemade goodness in every meal, which is also evident in their soups, pies, and classic cinnamon rolls. The clever name is a nod to the truckers who have the cafe dialed in during their US 287 long hauls.

Ennis: This fly-fishing mecca enjoys a plethora of solid eating establishments befitting a tourist destination, though most are only open seasonally. Even the well-stocked local supermarket, Madison Foods ($, 406-682-4306), packs an angler lunch to go. Another super choice for a sack lunch is The Pic-A-Nic Basket ($, 406-682-7900, B/L, closed Wed. & Sun.), which is best known for bakery items. Ennis has two coffee-shop-style diners worth mentioning: Yesterday’s Soda Fountain ($, 406-682-4246, B/L) and Summit Coffee & Cafe ($, 406-682-4442, B/L). Yesterday’s does indeed have the soda fountain amid a working pharmacy and is popular for malts and shakes. Summit is less old-fashioned, but with the same friendly food fare. Get your hungry Mexican on at Nacho Mama’s Burritos ($, 406-682-4006, Mon-Sat.), where the burritos and quesadillas are muy bueno, and the daily $5 lunch deal (11 am-2 pm) is muy especial. Fridays are nacho days, but be forewarned: they usually sell out. Dinner choices are many, but we find ourselves gravitating to the Gravel Bar ($, 406-682-5553) and Banditos ($$, 406-682-5552, Tues.-Sat. summers). Scott & Amy Kelley moved over from Virginia City and brought their flair for gourmet food and fun with them The G-Bar serves pub grub, but you can also order from Banditos’ menu (the dining room is right next door) when they’re operating. Another one of our picks, The Sportsman ($$/$$$, 406-682-4242, B/L/D), suffered a devastating fire in January 2015, but has rebuilt with a commitment to bring back the local favorites and preserve their reputation for fine dining at affordable prices. The Alley Bistro (406682-5695, D, Tues.-Sat.) is next door to a small bowling alley (three lanes) and has a little something for everybody with a surprisingly well-thought-out menu. It’s so popular among locals you might want to make a reservation. If you’re in the mood for a high-end gourmet meal paired with exceptional wine, the trendy and spendy Continental Divide Restaurant ($$$, 406-682-7600, D, Thurs.-Mon.) will fit the bill as long as you’re there between May and mid-October.

Virginia city: Housed in the old Wells Fargo building, the Virginia City Cafe ($/$$, 406-843-5311, L/D, May-Sept.) adjoins the town’s favorite watering hole, the Pioneer Bar (See Best Bars). The VC is a personal favorite for its scratch cooking and perfectly grilled elk-bison burger served with a pile of kitchen-made fries.

Nevada city: Star Bakery & Restaurant ($, 406-843-5777, B/L/D, May-Sept.) is in one of Nevada City’s fourteen original buildings (circa 1863) and a weekend destination during the summer season. Burgers, reuben sandwiches, homemade pies and cinnamon rolls it’s all good. The fried pickles, fresh-cut potato chips, and extraordinarily friendly service make it a worthy destination. alder: Chick’s Restaurant & Steakhouse ($, 406-842-7366, B/L/D) really is the all-in-one place: a hangout bar with good eats and a place to hang your hat at the end of the evening. (See Best Bunking). The steakhouse has the usual suspects, including chicken-fried steak, sirloin, and prime rib. But new owner Laurie Stiffler has added a few touches of her own. Try the porkies sandwich, which consists of marinated and slow-roasted pork loin, sliced and then panko-coated before it’s plopped into a thick bun. The hand-cut sirloin finger steaks aren’t bad, either. Every day brings a homemade dish that that goes well with an upgraded salad bar. Favorites include creamy chicken and mushroom, black bean and steak, and corn chowder. You can order dinner at the bar, but the restaurant is in back and has outside access.

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